The holidays are a joyous time—everyone feels more generous, people tend to be kinder and you get to see family you may rarely see during the year (take this as a plus or minus). If you are traveling to see loved ones, or they’re coming to you, some at-home safety issues could come up in your home or theirs during the holidays that you may not have considered. For example, when there are extra kids in the house and they get rambunctious, how do you make sure they’re watching out for more fire hazards with all the lights and extra decorations? Or if your home has firearms inside, are they properly secure and out of reach from wandering hands? Do you know what to do if a kiddo ingests something he really shouldn’t have?
To help you out, we spoke with a Dallas-based healthcare professional, Plano Fire-Rescue and the Fort Worth Police Department to get some recommendations for seasonal (or year-round) family safety.
Mom and practicing physician assistant Lauren Dobbs stresses that child poisoning is an important issue, especially at this time. “As families travel to visit loved ones who aren’t used to having kids in the house, or prepare to host family and friends, it is an important time for families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to remember to make their homes safe for children,” Dobbs says. “As a mom and a practicing PA, I know how fast accidents can happen around curious children.”
So what does it come down to? Proper storage of common household products. “Store all medicines, vitamins, batteries, cleaning products and liquid laundry packets up high and out of reach and sight,” Dobbs says. “’Trouble’ can take many forms and hide in many places. From the garage to the laundry room, the best place to store fertilizers, medicines or liquid laundry packets is in an overhead cabinet secured with a child safety lock.” In fact, Lauren teamed up recently with the American Cleaning Institute for the Packets Up campaign, which focuses on sharing such tips with parents during the season. She recommends that if you don’t have a cabinet available, consider putting the products into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high so kiddos won’t be able to see it.
Dobbs also suggests you keep these products in their original packaging, with labels intact—that way it’s clear to all what the product is. “While it can be tempting to swap out store-bought containers for Pinterest-inspired decorative jars and bowls, the original containers are designed to be child resistant and, in case of an emergency, have the ingredient and poison control information clearly displayed on the label,” Dobbs says.
Finally, keep the national poison control hotline handy (just in case)—800/222-1222.
Burn and Fire Safety Tips
Plano Fire-Rescue (PFR) reminds families that a lot of children’s injuries during the holidays involve burns from scalding liquids or exposure to fire from either candles or cooking. “The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) reports that 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February,” PFR says. To avoid burns, firefighters suggest getting your kiddos to slow down, breathe and be aware of their surroundings. “Sadly, at this time of the year, our busy and sometimes frantic schedules make us a little more prone to accidents and mishaps, especially in the home where we feel the safest,” PFR says. “Stay in the moment to both enjoy the holidays and prevent anything that might disrupt the fun festivities.” And remember, hot liquids like coffee and tea can scald the skin of young children with just a second or two of exposure. “Use care when handling hot liquids and use a travel mug with a lid if possible,” PFR advises. “[And] keep cords to crock pots and tablecloths away from toddlers who might grasp them when crawling.”
Further, PFR suggests that when visiting family and friends, make sure the kids are supervised and stay in sight of parents and caregivers. It may be winter and kids wouldn’t necessarily be expected to get in the pool, however accidents happen. “Children wander, and if they make their way to the swimming pool unnoticed by caregivers, [they] are often found too late,” PFR says. “If a child is missing, check the swimming pool first and vehicles second. Keep all doors and windows leading to the pool locked.” Also, if you have crawlers, keep an eye on what they can get into while on the floor (watch out for grandma’s purse and her medications or those button batteries in toys and decorations).
As far as prepping your home for fire safety, PFR suggests 1) having working smoke alarms, 2) developing an escape plan that each family member knows and 3) keeping a “kids-free zone” in the kitchen when cooking to avoid the above-mentioned burns or distractions that could lead to fires.
Finally, when decorating, consider purchasing decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant. And, as soon as Christmas is over, get the live Christmas tree out of the house. “On average, 160 home fires start with a Christmas tree each year in the US,” PFR notes.
Crime Prevention Tips
If you’re like many parents during the holidays, schedules get busy and parents find sitters or guests in their home to watch the kiddos. But make sure you know who’s watching your kids. According to the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD), sexual abuse of children increases during the holidays. “Have a safety talk with your child about their private parts and their authority to say no to uncomfortable situations,” officers say. “Discuss some scenarios and create a safety plan for your child should an unsafe situation arise. The majority of victims are not abused by strangers but by trusted adults in their lives.” FWPD recommends you stress to your child that they have the right to say “no” to anyone—even if that person is a family member, friend or someone they love.
If you’re taking the kids to the mall with you, tell them about safe people they can go to (like store clerks, managers, security guards) if they get separated from you while shopping. “Make sure, when old enough, they know your name or number in case they need to tell someone to get ahold of you,” FWPD says. Additionally, FWPD stresses that if you witness a situation where an adult is seeking “isolated situations” with a child or is breaking physical boundaries, you should take immediate action, regardless of how trusted that adult might be.
If you have a firearm in your household, FWPD offers some simple tips to make sure it’s properly stored: 1) Keep your gun locked in a gun safe or lock box; 2) make sure the guns are stored in a location not accessible to children or any other person not allowed to handle a gun; 3) ammunition should be securely stored separate from the gun and in a location not accessible to children and 4) never leave an unattended loaded gun in an area accessible to children. “There are a number of ways to properly store and handle a gun, and each family should tailor their plan to fit their needs,” FWPD says. “It is the responsibility of parents or caregivers to start a dialogue with children about gun safety and reinforce it by repeating the message with them.”
Finally, it’s just as important that your child know what they need to do if they come across a firearm. “The Eddie Eagle GunSafe program is a gun accident prevention program that seeks to help parents, law enforcement, community groups and educators navigate a topic paramount to our children’s safety,” FWPD says. The first step is stop. “Stopping first allows your child the time he or she needs to remember the rest of the safety instructions,” officers say. Second, don’t touch. “A firearm that is not touched or disturbed is unlikely to be fired and otherwise endanger your child or other people,” FWPD says. Third, run away. If the child gets away from the firearm, the temptation to touch the firearm is removed as well as the danger that another person could negligently cause it to fire. And fourth, tell a grown up. “Children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor, relative or teacher—if a parent or guardian is not available,” FWPD says.
For more resources based on secure storage of poisonous materials, visit PacketsUp.com.
For more fire safety information, visit the National Fire Protection Association, Sparky the Fire Dog, SafeKids Worldwide and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
For online safety, check out this article written by one of FWPD’s officers.
For more firearm safety, visit the NRA’s Eddie Eagle website.
Image courtesy of iStock.